During the Cold War-era, the USSR was known for its promotion of “godless Communism.” Times have changed. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet state, Russia is now accusing the West of lacking faith in God.
For the past several years, Russia has been inching toward a close alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church. In a December speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised his country’s values and slammed Western acceptance of same-sex marriage.
“Many Euro-Atlantic countries have moved away from their roots, including Christian values,” Putin said. “Policies are being pursued that place on the same level a multi-child family and a same-sex partnership, a faith in God and a belief in Satan. This is the path to degradation.”
Putin also described Russia as a defender of “traditional values” against assaults from the West, asserting that a staunch defense is the only way to prevent Russia from descending into “chaotic darkness.”
These remarks came not long after Russia adopted laws prohibiting “gay propaganda” and making it a crime to “insult” someone’s religious beliefs.
The Washington Times noted that even though Putin claims to be deeply religious, he made no attempt to impose that faith on others during his first decade in office. But since his reelection in May 2012, Putin has catered to Russia’s conservatives, including overtly religious and nationalist factions.
Following on the heels of Putin’s remarks, Patriarch Kirill I of Moscow, leader of the Orthodox Church, echoed Putin’s denunciation of the West.
“The general political direction of the [Western political] elite bears, without doubt, an anti-Christian and anti-religious character,” Kirill said in comments broadcast by state-run television. “We have been through an epoch of atheism, and we know what it is to live without God. We want to shout to the whole world, ‘Stop!’”
Another church official, Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, criticized church-state separation.
“The separation of the secular and the religious is a fatal mistake by the West,” he said. “It is a monstrous phenomenon that has occurred only in Western civilization and will kill the West, both politically and morally.”
While these statements are concerning, some observers say Putin may simply be pandering to religious interests in an attempt by the government to suppress Russian citizens who are rejecting the state’s messages and ideas.
“This is the government’s response to modernized Russians becoming more defiant and independent,” Maria Lipman, an analyst for the Moscow-based Carnegie Center, told the Times. “The government is pitting the conservative majority against the liberal minority. As a result, raging anti-Western ideology has now turned into something that is almost a state ideology.”